Originally created 03/20/00

Vols eliminate defending champs



BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Minus Khalid El-Amin, defending champion Connecticut never stood a chance against Tennessee.

Hobbled by a sprained right ankle, El-Amin was ineffective for the fifth-seeded Huskies, who looked lost Sunday in a 65-51 loss to No. 4 Tennessee in the second round of the South Regional.

"I know that I bring the energy and demeanor to this team," El-Amin said. "And without me, we weren't able to go offensively like we are normally able to."

El-Amin scored only three points, while longtime rival Tony Harris scored 18 for the Vols.

"It had to be tough for them not to have their general," Tennessee center C.J. Black said. "It looked hard for them to fill those shoes."

The Vols capitalized on his absence by turning Harris loose.

The two junior guards have a prickly relationship dating to their days of AAU basketball and without El-Amin to guard him, Harris had free rein through the lane. He made just four of his 11 shots, but was able to draw numerous fouls and finished 9-of-12 at the line.

Harris said he got no satisfaction in winning the most important battle the two have ever waged.

"I feel sorry for him because he got hurt at a big time," Harris said. "But he has a big heart and he will bounce back."

Tennessee (26-6) got past the second round for the first time. The Vols were bounced out of the tournament in either the first or second round five straight times.

Tennessee will play North Carolina, a surprise winner over top-seeded Stanford, on Friday in the regional semifinals. Losses by Stanford, No. 2 Cincinnati and No. 3 Ohio State made Tennessee the highest remaining seed in the wide-open South Regional.

The Vols, whose Knoxville campus is located just 200 miles away from Birmingham, celebrated at center court while the crowd chanted "SEC! SEC!"

"We felt like the home team here in Birmingham," said Vincent Yarbrough, who finished with 14 points. "We tip our hats to the crowd, which played a huge part."

Connecticut (25-10) missed a chance at its eighth trip in 11 years to the regional semifinals.

Without a healthy El-Amin, the Huskies never even threatened the Vols. Connecticut's leading scorer and floor leader sprained his ankle in the first-round win over Utah State and still was bothered by it against Tennessee.

He took just two shots and played only 13 minutes -- grimacing through most of them while tenderly favoring the heavily wrapped ankle -- and could only look on from the bench as his teammates struggled without him.

"We just couldn't get into an offensive flow," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "We're so dependent on Khalid's energy on offense that we couldn't get anything established. But we do depend on Khalid offensively probably too much."

Connecticut got 17 points from Albert Mouring and 14 from Kevin Freeman. Center Jake Voskuhl had only two points in the final game of his college career and Connecticut's 51 points was its lowest total of the season.



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